Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hudson River Study Finds 10 Species Ailing

by The Associated Press
Thursday May 15, 2008, 7:06 AM

A study of 13 Hudson River fish species indicates 10 have declined since the mid-1970s, despite a significant improvement in the river's water quality.

One fish, the rainbow smelt, no longer shows up at all in the samplings, the report said.

It suggests a variety of causes, ranging from global warming to the invasion of the zebra mussel. But it also points a finger at five power plants that take in river water -- and millions of fish and fish eggs each year -- to cool their equipment.

"Even if the power companies are not the sole cause of degradation of the Hudson River fish community, the loss of such high proportions of the fish populations must be important," the report said.

The environmental group Riverkeeper, which commissioned the study from Pisces Conservation Ltd., a British consultant, planned to release the study at a riverside news conference Thursday morning. The Associated Press obtained a copy in advance.

Riverkeeper has been trying for years to force power plants to upgrade their cooling systems to a closed-cycle type that would use 97 percent less river water. The group's president, Alex Matthiessen, said Wednesday that the Clean Water Act requires that such technology be updated and that he would call on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the requirement.

"Too many of these species are in serious decline," he said. "You have to try and address all the factors that are playing a role, and at the very least, you have to make sure that the various parties responsible are following the law."

Matthiessen said the study's findings surprised him.

"We've managed to improve the river over the last four decades. We thought it would only make sense that as the river became cleaner the ecosystem upon which the fish depend would become healthier," he said

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